Friday, August 08, 2008

Boxed-In in Brooklyn

The NY Daily News focuses in on the potential siting of two BJs box stores in Brooklyn: "It's an all-out Brooklyn food fight. Two big-box BJ's wholesale stores are planned for Bensonhurst and in Canarsie, much to the dismay of a labor union and area food stores. Supermarket owners fear they'll be undersold by the giant stores. There also are gripes about the store's anti-union practices and the fact that BJ's doesn't take food stamps. "BJ's wants to put in two stores, but it doesn't answer the needs of the community - they need a supermarket," said Grocery Workers Union organizer Pat Purcell."

The box store will be in for a big fight on both sites since the land slated for development needs to be re-zoned: "At "both of those locations, a big-box stores would require a special permit, and we have not received an application for either," said Rachaele Raynoff, spokeswoman for the City Planning Department." Any application will require a full land use review and eventual approval from the city council.

BJs makes its case with the following: "BJ's proprietors argue that the new locations would only help the borough. "There's a service that we can give to the community: bringing jobs, brand names and low prices to the area," said BJ's spokeswoman Stephanie Lacroix. "There's a signed lease," she said, referring to the site of a former bus depot at 1824 Shore Parkway, property that is owned by Thor Equities near Ceasar's Bay shopping center." The Shore Parkway location's lease, however, is contingent on getting the requisite zoning approval.

As we have been saying for a while, box stores suck business out of the neighborhood, particularly from the supermarkets whose business they cannibalize. This is certainly not an appropriate time for more such stores when local markets are disappearing: "The buy-in-bulk stores, which require membership, will join the BJ's in Starrett City and a Costco Superstore in Sunset Park. Meanwhile, traditional supermarkets are rapidly closing throughout the city, leaving a void in some communities."

The upcoming battle will challenge the sincerity of the mayor's supermarket task force, whose claimed goal is to preserve and promote local supermarket growth. Allowing box store proliferation creates a zero-sum game that supermarkets, and local shopping strips, simply can't win.